Pay and conditions for thousands of adult education tutors to be regularised

Many tutors paid an hourly rate based on time spent teaching with no holiday pay or pension entitlements

Pay and conditions for about 3,000 tutors working in the adult education sector is to be regularised following a long-running dispute in the sector, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) annual conference has heard.

Currently, many tutors are paid an hourly rate based on time spent teaching with no holiday pay or pension entitlements.

Minister of State with responsibility for skills Niall Collins confirmed that an agreement has been concluded for tutors working in the further education sector.

The deal, with its roots in a Labour Court decision in 2020, but which had been held up by funding and then legal issues, places the tutors on the same grade as Youthreach resource workers.

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It continues to be opposed by a portion of the tutors – including some TUI members – and is expected to be the subject of at least one emergency motion on Thursday.

TUI assistant general secretary Colm Kelly acknowledged there was still some dissatisfaction over a deal that provides for a pay scale ranging from €34,000 to €63,000 when long-service increments are included.

He said the Labour Court had made it clear it did not believe teaching grades were appropriate “and we had to respect a Labour Court decision in the same way we would expect an employer to”.

Mr Collins said, meanwhile, he believed the deal “will provide a career path for tutors in the public service”.

Delegates at the conference held up placards calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as Minister Niall Collins took to the stage, highlighting the hundreds of schools bombed and teachers killed or injured.

Concerns over the impact of artificial Intelligence on education also featured at the TUI conference in Killarney on Tuesday.

Delegates passed motions expressing their insistence that machines cannot replace teachers, demanding that its rapidly developing use be the subject of open debate and calling for adequate resources to be put into assessing both the opportunities and risks involved.

In education, there is the added issue of academic integrity and several speakers acknowledged the enormity of a challenge being wrestled with at every level of the sector.

Job security is a concern in schools and colleges just as it is elsewhere, the delegates made clear.

Diarmuid Naessens, from the Youthreach sector in Dublin, said the union will have to work hard to ensure the technology is used as “a tool to deliver educational benefit to our students” and counter any attempts by employers “to save time, save resources, save money and maybe put teachers out of their jobs at a future date.”

Ursula O’Connor, chair of the union’s Donegal branch, said education “is a public good, not a marketplace but just think what some governments would do if they thought they could deliver a course without the teacher ... ker-ching, ker-ching,”

Antoinette Rourke from Dundalk IT said AI has the potential to revolutionise education in “all its aspects and at all levels.”

“It has the potential to make education and learning more personalised, more efficient and more accessible. However, we had to tread carefully to ensure that the use of AI aligns with our values, our ethics and societal wellbeing,” she said.

“It is our duty to ensure that these advancements and innovations serve the greater good. We must demand with regard to AI that we get credible assurances and that practical measures are put in place by our Government and other agencies to safeguard our educational institutions.”

She said decisions regarding AI “can’t be made behind closed doors” and that “we need open and inclusive dialogue involving all stakeholders ... teachers, lecturers, tutors, other educators, students, parents, and policymakers”.

Mr Naessens also urged delegates to come back next year “with more and better motions on the subject”.

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